What did you get up to on New Year’s Eve? Did you have a glass or two of beer? Give a few mouthfuls to your 9-month-old baby to make him crawl faster, perhaps?
No? Why not? That’s what they did back in the 1950s.
This article appeared in The Argus, Melbourne’s third biggest daily newspaper at the time, on New Year’s Day, 1957.
What it says
I’ve transcribed it here as it’s difficult to read in the newspaper clipping:
The groggy baby
Sydney, Monday: A mother today used a glass of beer to coax her nine-month-old baby in a crawling race.
The Coogee New Year’s Eve Mardi Gras committee organised the baby crawl as part of its celebrations.
After two mouthfuls of beer the baby stopped crawling and sat groggily on the ground.
It refused to move and its father finally drank the beer.
Fourteen babies, from 9 to 18 months, entered the race.
High-spirited mothers used cigarettes, matches, orange juice, beer, dolls, rattles, ice-cream, milk, fruit, shoes, key chains and balls to coax their children.
Most babies cried, a few laughed and all were reluctant to crawl.
Rodney Ewan, 13 months, of Abbott st., Coogee, won.
His mother enticed him across the finishing line with a pair of bright red shoes.
What happened to the perfect 1950s housewife and mother?
You know, that one that smiles through bright red lipstick, has smiling, clean, happy children and wears an apron at all times?
What I love about this newspaper article is that there is no judgement. Clearly goading your baby with cigarettes and matches and feeding them beer was perfectly ok in the eyes of the writer. Presumably they also thought it would be totally acceptable to their 160,000+ readers of the day.
Compare that to today
Reporting of the same story on 1 January 2015 would probably go something like this…
Beer babies seized, parents under arrest, locals shocked
Last night 14 babies, aged between 9 and 18 months, were seized by Coogee police after their parents were found racing them in an abusive and illegal manner.
The distraught babies were forced to compete against each other in a bizarre baby crawling race, goaded by drunken adults with lit cigarettes, matches and alcohol.
It is unclear what condition the infants are currently in. All are under care at the local hospital.
Local residents are shocked at the blatant abuse. Marjory Green, 73, a long-time Coogee local, said:
This would never have happened in my day. Parents need to be held more accountable for what they do to their poor children. It’s the babies I feel for.
The parents have been variously charged with public drunkenness, illegal betting and providing alcohol to a minor.
Social services are also investigating the circumstances of the babies’ siblings. 3-year-old male twins have already been removed from the home of the winning baby, one Rodney Ewan, 13 months, of Abbott St, Coogee.
The police investigation continues.